Recent patterns in job board M&A – Job Board Doctor

Mergers and acquisitionsAs you may remem­ber, I try to keep an eye on the acqui­si­tions and sales in the job board indus­try. Why? Well, first of all, I always need fresh ammo for to the ‘are job dead?indi­ca­tor of sorts as to the inter­est the sec­tor holds for investors. So giv­en that we’ve had some recent activ­i­ty (see this post), I it might be worth a longer look at what’s hap­pened this year – apart from or in spite of the pan­dem­ic.

For per­spec­tive’s sake, I tracked 29 sales events in 2019 (and remem­ber – I try but my infor­ma­tion is hard­ly com­pre­hen­sive – I just try and cap­ture as much pub­licly avail­able as I can!). In oth­er words, just over 2 events per month.

So what does 2020 look like thus far? I count 21 thus far (Decem­ber is obvi­ous­ly not includ­ed), start­ing the acqui­si­tion of SelectLead­ers by BISNOW Media back in Jan­u­ary, and end­ing with the pur­chase of Zarpla­ta by the Russ­ian site Headhunter.ru in late Novem­ber. So even if there are a few more in the com­ing four weeks, I sus­pect that 2020 will be slight­ly less active than the pre­ced­ing year.

Now, let’s think about the year from the per­spec­tive of buy­ers and sell­ers. What were the fac­tors that might have affect­ed activ­i­ty?

  1. The pan­dem­ic and resul­tant cat­a­stroph­ic drop in employ­ment, start­ing in March. With many busi­ness­es shut down, demand for new hires col­lapsed.
  2. Ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the pan­dem­ic. Think: online retail­ers. Logis­tics. Tele­health. Online con­fer­ence and remote work providers. Etc., etc., etc. Like a bal­loon that had been squeezed, some of the lost demand for work­ers reap­peared in oth­er seg­ments.
  3. Pan­ic sell­ing. If you’re a job board or recruit­ing site and 70% of your van­ish­es, you might con­sid­er sell­ing or shut­ting down. Par­tic­u­lar­ly if your busi­ness was waver­ing to begin with. (For exam­ple, con­sid­er Hired….).
  4. Dis­ap­pear­ing work­force. It’s still days, but there appears to be a per­ma­nent loss of at least some por­tion of the work­force. They lost their jobs and they decid­ed not to return to work. We don’t know how big that is, or where it will affect the work­force most – but it seems to be real. At some point, in some way, those ‘van­ished’ work­ers will have to be replaced.

Look­ing at some of the acqui­si­tions in light of the above, you can see pat­terns emerge. There are those com­pa­nies that are acquir­ing prop­er­ties that make them more com­pet­i­tive in a sud­den­ly remote-work world: Step­stone buy­ing Cam­mio, a video recruit­ing busi­ness, for exam­ple. Then there is what you can only call ‘oppor­tunis­tic pur­chas­es‘, such as the afore-men­tioned sale of Hired to Vet­tery, or the pur­chase of AllyO by Hire­Vue. In both cas­es, the prop­er­ties pur­chased were – and I sus­pect the price paid was, well, pret­ty darn low.

Then there are exam­ples of trends con­tin­u­ing from 2019. For exam­ple, the pur­chase of pro­gram­mat­ic provider IGB by VONQ, and the acqui­si­tion of NGCa­reers by Job­ber­man. Adv­in­ta’s pur­chase of aggre­ga­tor JobIsJob falls into this cat­e­go­ry as well. Mar­ket con­sol­i­da­tion, pro­gram­mat­ic, and more aggre­ga­tion – yep, we’ve seen these before!

What we haven’t seen is as much activ­i­ty in the free­lancer realm of North Amer­i­ca. We know the job board indus­try is glob­al – and some­times the data prove that.

So what will the new year bring? I sus­pect that a very grad­ual growth in labor demand will par­al­lel the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the COVID vac­cines – which in turn will lead to sim­i­lar growth in job boards and recruit­ment mar­ket­ing. But – as always – growth will be uneven, and uneven­ly dis­trib­uted. In oth­er word, 2021 could be an inter­est­ing year!

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